Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sol Werdiger: A Walking Kiddush HaShem

Sol Werdiger  and Oh Joon (YWN)
One of the things that bother me the most in the Jewish world is the tremendous amount of Chilul HaShem that all too many Orthodox Jews are responsible for. It sometimes seems like there is a never ending stream of miscreants. And that pains me greatly. 

We can’t be a light unto the nations if those of us who are so obviously observant are seen as devious crooks.  Which is why I so strongly and quickly condemn it.  Let those who might base their animosity towards us by virtue of these stories know that we are not all like that. Not all religious Jews are crooks or deviants.  Only the very few among us are and they deserve the punishment they get.

Every once in a while, there is a story published about those among us that do live up to the Torah’s mandate to be a light unto the nations. It has happened more than once in recent times where a religious Jew showed what Jewish ethics really all about.

It happened again. Only this time the Kiddush HaShem resulted in an immediate tangible result. A result that was an unintended consequence of his actions. Which makes the Kiddush HaShem even greater since there was no ulterior motive for what Sol Werdiger did. He did it because it was the right thing to do. Not for any personal or communal gain. The story by Rabbi Dovid Saks has apparently gone viral on social media. From YWN
This past weekend I heard an amazing story: Mr. Sol Werdiger, CEO of Outerstuff, a company that produces sports apparel, received a phone call from Mr. Oh Joon, the South Korean UN Ambassador asking to meet him for lunch at a Kosher restaurant in Manhattan.
Although Sol did not know the purpose of the meeting he agreed to meet with Mr. Joon.
When they met, Mr. Joon told him the following, “I have always heard negative stereotypes about Jews and Israel and I took it at face value. Then, my daughter took an internship working on design in your company. Throughout the year, she has been telling me how wonderful it is to work at your company.”
Mr. Joon continued, “There are four areas which stood out and impressed my daughter.
1) Everyday, at 1:30 p.m., no matter what was going on at the office, all the men including those from neighboring offices, retreated into a room to pray with sincerity and calm.
2) Every Friday the office shuts down early in the afternoon in preparation for your holy Sabbath and is closed on the Sabbath – this includes all workers no matter which faith or religion they maintain.

3) My daughter observed that each petitioner for charity – and there were many – were treated with respect and left with a check in hand.

4) My daughter was treated with the utmost respect and dignity.”
Because of the amazing experience and lessons the company taught his daughter, Mr. Joon took out his checkbook and was ready to write a check returning all his daughter’s earnings! Mr. Werdiger wouldn’t hear from it. “Your daughter worked and earned her salary and rightfully deserves her pay, I will not accept any remuneration.”
Then the Ambassador relayed the most amazing thing. “As you know, I have voting privileges at the UN. Because of my renewed appreciation of the Jewish people, I abstained from voting on resolutions against Israel on three occasions. At one resolution I was the ninth vote needed to pass the motion and resolution against Israel and because I abstained, it did not pass!”
Mr. Werdiger told me that no one at the office had any idea that this girl was the daughter of an Ambassador and no one ever imagined what type of impact their typical conduct at work had on her or how this impacted the votes against Israel. 
Mr. Werdiger happens to be the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Agudath Israel of America.  Which speaks highly of their lay leadership if he is typical of them.

This story should be read by everybody. I am happy to be able to report some good news for a change. With all that’s going on in the world right now, it just feels good that there are Sol Werdigers in the world. And there are probably a lot more like him that always behave in ways that are a Kiddush HaShem - but do not get any media attention. This time one of them did. And I could not be happier about it.